Southend born Lewis Griffiths plays Nick Massi in Jersey Boys at Norwich Theatre Royal. I had a chat with him about his favourite songs from the show and why he really should be the next James Bond… or Dr Who!
I am presuming that, like most in your profession, that you have moved to London?
You would think so, but I have calculated that I have spent the last five years on tour. I don’t actually live in London, I am born and bred Southend and instead of paying London prices I have just bought a property in Southend and I live there when I’m not on the road!
The touring schedule with Jersey Boys doesn’t allow for much of a home life does it?
No, but on my previous tour I met my girlfriend, who is now my fiance and we are planning the wedding. Any spare time we do have is spent planning everything for the wedding which will be in 2020. But yes, not much down time. Whenever I get time to myself I’ll either go home to Southend or ‘home’ to Newcastle which is where my fiance and her family are from.
This is not your first tour with Jersey Boys is it?
No its the second tour and my second outing with it. The inaugral tour about three years ago was such a success – there was a decision to be made, to persevere with the London production or the tour. It was a no brainer to put the show on the road and again it is very.
Is there a difference between a west end production and the touring show?
Yes, there are differences. Production values, set, crew, cast, the size and scale of the show. But with Jersey Boys they do not cut corners. In order to retain the integrity of the production we have to produce on the road, the same show that they produce in London and in Broadway.
You are way too young to remember Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, how did you come across his music?
Yes, I was born in 1985 so I was a little bit late! I was five years old when they were inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. My taste in music comes from my late grandfather, I have a very eclectic taste in music thanks to my granddad and my dad. I am a big fan of Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack, any kind of do whop style of music. There are audiences that grew up with the original four seasons, like my parents – their song is “Who Loves You” which is the finale to the show, and there are audiences who are hearing this for the first time.
The show is told by the cast in four seasons and yours season is fall, the beginning of the end.
Yes, without giving too much away, but I love that you have picked up on that, not many people do. Each member of the Four Seasons narrates a season. The first is narrated by Tommy DeVito, the new beginnings in spring. Then comes summer, the narrative of Bob Gaudio, this being the height of their career. And I narrate fall where the fractious parts of the band tensions come to the fore. For me as an actor this is the best part to play because the Nick Massi character is very enigmatic, its more about what he doesn’t say or do.
Frankie Valli is still touring – have you ever met?
Yes, I was fortunate enough on the first tour to meet him. We did a live performance on BBC Breakfast, Bill Turnbill was interviewing Frankie on the show and we closed the show with “Oh What a Night” – afterwards we met him, possibly one of the most humbling moments of my career. He was telling us that he has earned more money off of the success of Jersey Boys than he ever did in anything else he did with The Four Seasons. He always opens his shows with “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, who’s seen Jersey Boys?”
When I talk to musicians I can never ever ask them about their favourite songs, its like asking them to choose a favourite child. But I am going to ask you what your favourite song in the show is…
Oh…. can I be cheeky and say three? And this is not a song that I sing, it is Frankie’s first solo song, “My Eyes Adore You” – it is just a beautiful song. I do get to sing two notes right at the end – sung very well I might add! The second would be “Beggin’ “ – it is in the middle of my season, a very tense, fractious, mood changing point in the show where things begin to fall apart. Beggin’ is just so groovy, it has a real soulful funk to it that the other songs don’t have. And my third, purely because it’s my parents song from when they were dating, is “Who Loves You?”
You are immersed in this show almost twenty-four seven, what to you do to relax and get away from it all?
You know… I don’t know! For instance, today, I listened to my fiance’s radio show on line. I went for a walk, we are in Nottingham at the moment and fortunately we are blessed with sunshine so I wandered around the town. I went to the gym, had lunch, and then went to the theatre to write a little.
Do you ever get tired of the show?
No. I do get fed up with touring, being away from friends and family. But I never get bored with the show and I don’t think audiences do either which is why they keep coming back.
Have you got understudies in case something happens?
Oh yes! There are four Frankie Vallis in the theatre, and each season has two under-studies. That means that if a new Frankie is on stage there is a new band because there is a new chemistry and a new dynamic and part of the reason I never get bored is because there isn’t time. You are constantly thinking on your feet.
They tell me that you are a Dr Who fan – ever fancy being the next Doctor?
Oh yes… I have! There are two parts that I would like to consider myself for… stereotypical, iconic British roles that I would like to play – of course these are fantasy roles in y own head! I would love to play The Doctor, or at least appear in an episode. The other would be James Bond. When we opened the first tour of Jersey Boys in Manchester, the Broadway director Des McAnuff said afterwards to me – “Lewis, there was only one thing I couldn’t get out of my head watching you” – and I’m thinking this is going to be bad, I’ve upset the director, but he went on – “your voice and your stature… if you wore a tuxedo you would just be so James Bond!”
Jersey Boys opens in Norwich at the Theatre Royal and runs until Saturday 16th June – you can book tickets by clicking here.